Jonathon's Closet

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Search for Manhood

Uh-oh. So THAT’s what’s on his mind. Hmmm. Yikes! Well, it’s not like I haven’t given this a LOT of thought. Believe me; this same thought has occurred to me. I’ve had a lot of time to try to figure out how I can help Jonathon figure out what it means to be a man. I don’t think I’ve figured it out completely, but here’s what I’ve come up over the past few years:

1. Develop a good relationship.
Try not to make him feel judged for his beliefs and interests. Create an open atmosphere that stimulates conversations. Help him to begin to trust in you and in himself. (For the record, this was a lot easier before he turned into a teen – now he’d rather talk to his friends than his Mom, so this one is taking a little extra effort again)

2. Challenge the myth of the tough guy.
I want my son to know that manhood is not defined by street culture, but rather by a set of values. A man needs to understand himself and others, to care for his family, his community, and his world. Jonathon is exposed to other kinds of male role models and values: athletic coaches, teachers, Scout leaders.

3. Show boys it's OK to feel your feelings.
Jonathon seems to be working hard to turn off his emotions lately. It seems like this is part of the process of transforming into the kind of hypothetical male he thinks he needs to be. I want Jonathon to learn that by developing his emotional life he will be able to be a better man, to be well-rounded, more mature, and better able to have good relationships, raise a family and keep a job.

4. Provide examples of what it means to be a real man.
I admit it, I’ve done a little research in this area (OK, more than a little) and the predominant thought among experts is this: If boys see through examples that their fathers care about and are actively engaged with their families, and live by their own standards of masculinity, they will begin to see that men are not defined by society's rules, but by the kinds of people we are inside. That’s all well and good, but not something that my situation allows for. So I look for other examples (like the husband of a friend who helped Jonathon with a woodworking project, or the 24 year old family friend who occasionally calls Jonathon for a game of chess and some guy talk).

5. Talk about what it means to be a real man.
When the appropriate situation presents itself, we have an impromptu discussion about the kind of man Jonathon’s Dad was, or Grandpa was. Every once in a while, usually when something just isn’t feeling right, Jonathon will approach me and say “what would Dad have done?” and we talk about what decision Dad would have likely made and why.

6. Communicate clear expectations of MY opinion of what a good man is.
Yep, this one is my ego trip. I get to dictate the rules. I get to tell my son what a woman perceives to be a good man. Things like “hold the door” and “help carry packages” and “show respect for yourself and others thru your words and actions”. I get to slam the door on demeaning music or phrases (No, you may not call the girls in your class “really slammin’ hot chicks”)

I have a great kid. Yeah, he drives me nuts sometimes; he’s a teenager, that’s his job. But he’s a great kid. I have a son who seems to have found a balance between the highly physical and highly competitive (track, swimming, taekwondo, soccer) and the very peaceful and quiet (science, reading, math). He is average in his performance on the track, and excels at his other 3 chosen sports. He thrives in school, and is in the top 1 percent of the IQ scale.

I understand that boys want to grow up to be like their fathers. The human brain is wired for imitation. Boys imitate and emulate their fathers. Every boy loves his father and wants to be able to do what he does, both to honor him, to earn his praise, and to compete with him. Men are extremely important in giving boys messages about being a man. Boys want to grow up to be like their male role models.

Boys who grow up in homes without fathers must search the hardest to figure out what it means to be male.


  • Hi Kate! Just from reading this little bit of what Jonathan has written, it sounds like he's off to a good start!
    ~Peggie (Club Mom)

    By Blogger Chaos Mommy, at 5:54 PM  

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